back to article It's incredibly easy to bump someone off online, and here's how to do it – infosec bod

Most of us have had occasional fantasies about killing someone. Now, as governments demand more personal information from citizens online, it has apparently become surprisingly easy to turn that fantasy into a reality, at least on paper – courtesy of some glaring loopholes. Or so says infosec bod Chris Rock, who presented his …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Devil

    Film at 11

    Controlling everything centrally via inept civil serpentry for "social benefits fraud", "tax avoidance", "illegal immigration" and "terrororoorism" will lead to Brazil situations.

    Indeed.

  2. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    Passport applications and driving licences get blocked,

    Not everywhere and only because of "Day of Jackal" etc

  3. Andy Non
    WTF?

    Happens often enough here in France

    The bungling bureaucrats here are always finding ways to foul up. On the TV news recently was a pensioner who's pension payments had been stopped because he was dead. Then ensued a nightmare farce of him trying to convince the authorities that he was alive and well; but too late, all the computer systems had been updated with his untimely demise and he couldn't be brought back to life again nor reclaim his pension.

    Even the tax authorities here try to get you after you are dead. Another item that made the news was a letter addressed to a dead man at his grave in the cemetery! So not only did they know he was dead but they also found out where he was buried. Apparently he owed tax and being dead wasn't an excuse to avoid payment. The farce reached the news because the bemused postman took the letter to the local mairie (councillor) instead of leaving it on the man's grave.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Happens often enough here in France

      Certainly one has to trust a computer more than a dead man and what's wrong with the last known address. As a programmer I know all you need to fuck up something by intent or by accident is a computer.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Happens often enough here in France

      "Then ensued a nightmare farce of him trying to convince the authorities that he was alive and well; but too late, all the computer systems had been updated with his untimely demise and he couldn't be brought back to life again nor reclaim his pension."

      Presumably such a false statement, especially one resulting in serious financial disadvantage, would be libellous. Try suing the responsible authorities for libel & see just how quickly it would be corrected.

      1. Andy Non

        Re: Happens often enough here in France

        According to the news article it came about because the pensioner was in the hospital at the time and the hospital admins / doctor mixed up his name with another patient who had died; resulting in a death certificate being issued in his name and the ensuing automatic notifications of his "demise" to other French authorities. Knowing how bad France is for red tape and how incompetent and useless many of the bureaucrats are, it was no surprise to hear of his monumental problems trying to be declared "undead". I won't relate the adventures I've had dealing with French bureaucracy other than to say you have to live here to appreciate how much red tape there is to do anything... and anything out of the ordinary can take several years to sort out, if ever!

        1. BongoJoe Silver badge

          Re: Happens often enough here in France

          Wouldn't it best, under these circumstances, to take on the identity of the person who "wasn't dead"?

      2. Hans 1 Silver badge

        Re: Happens often enough here in France

        >Try suing the responsible authorities for libel & see just how quickly it would be corrected.

        Good luck suing the French authorities ...

      3. ScottAS2

        Re: Happens often enough here in France

        "Try suing the responsible authorities for libel..."

        They've got him there, too: you can't defame a dead person.*

        * In Scots law. I've no idea about French.

  4. Vincent Ballard

    Clarifications requested

    In order to register someone as dead a form detailing the cause of mortality needs to be filled out by a doctor within 24 hours of that person's final breath.
    This definitely isn't true in the UK - it can take much longer than that to get an autopsy - but it's not clear from context whether it's talking about Australia or the US.

    in California you need an arts degree.
    Please tell me this is a joke. Why shouldn't someone with a degree in, say, biochemistry be considered capable of handling a body?

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: Clarifications requested

      in California you need an arts degree.

      Please tell me this is a joke. Why shouldn't someone with a degree in, say, biochemistry be considered capable of handling a body?

      The state legislature had to do something about all the people with BA degrees roaming the state unemployed (there are only so many jobs at fast-food places, after all) and no doubt supposed that even an English major would have difficulty doing anything too far wrong with a dead body. Someone with a biochem degree is likely to be able to find a job elsewhere.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Clarifications requested

      in California you need an arts degree.

      Please tell me this is a joke. Why shouldn't someone with a degree in, say, biochemistry be considered capable of handling a body?

      I'm actually not surprised. It is California where much is about appearances. I would have thought though that minor in cosmetology would be needed.. Having a great looking corpse, you know.

    3. John Tserkezis

      Re: Clarifications requested

      "Please tell me this is a joke. Why shouldn't someone with a degree in, say, biochemistry be considered capable of handling a body?"

      Easy: Only those with arts degrees are qualfied to ask "Would you like fries with that".

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: Clarifications requested

        Yuck - fries with a dead body - even Jeffrey Damer would decline.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          @Herman -- Re: Clarifications requested

          Yuck - fries with a dead body - even Jeffrey Damer would decline.

          Would fava beans and a nice chianti work then?

        2. Dan Paul

          Re: Clarifications requested

          Spelling mistake, not "fries", it's FLIES!

    4. Hollerith 1

      Re: Clarifications requested

      Someone with a BA degree has fille dout a lot of forms, and successfully, because they have a degree. That suggests they can read a form, understand it, fill it out, and submit it.

      It doesn't prove they can, but the degree is strongly supportive of the thought that they can.

    5. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Clarifications requested

      > > In order to register someone as dead a form detailing the cause of mortality needs to be filled out by a doctor within 24 hours of that person's final breath.

      > This definitely isn't true in the UK - it can take much longer than that to get an autopsy - but it's not clear from context whether it's talking about Australia or the US.

      I've tweaked the sentence. I think the gist was supposed to be that a report of the death must be filed within 24 hours of its discovery (not the cause) at least in the U.S.

      Don't forget - if you spot something odd in a story, email corrections@theregister.co.uk so it can be looked at immediately.

      C.

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Clarifications requested

        @diodesign

        Yes, but. If you point out the error in the comments, we all get to watch the author eat humble pie. Much more gratifying!

    6. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Clarifications requested

      Re needing an arts degree: Probably worth noting that in the U.S. a BA covers a great many occupations that you wouldn't normally think of as artistic. For example, if someone is a professional linguist, they probably have a BA, because Linguistics is under the 'arts' side of the house and not the 'sciences' side. It's all a bit arbitrary.

      1. Martin Maloney
        Coat

        Re: Clarifications requested

        A bloke with a degree in linguistics, unable to find employment in his chosen field, instead sought to become a porn star.

        He was a very cunning linguist.

        Gettin' me coat...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clarifications requested

        > Probably worth noting that in the U.S. a BA covers a great many occupations that you wouldn't normally think of as artistic.

        Not just the US.

        I have an "arts" degree in Engineering Science. People find it amusing if they ask what my MA is for :-) That's from one of the oldest UK universities.

  5. Fazal Majid

    Immigration fraud

    If birth certificates are so easy to forge, that would make immigration fraud easy for younger people.

  6. ecofeco Silver badge

    Chris Rock?

    When did Chris Rock become an infosec guru? I guess you need that kind of sense of humor to deal with all the fucking stupidity.

    Oh, not that Chris Rock? Oops.

    Anyway, welcome to William Gibson's world from 30 years ago. (although I do believe it's almost right on time)

    Now about that cloud thingy and the IofT...

  7. Graham Marsden
    Alert

    "you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned"

    Which, surely, has benefits too...

    "I arrest you for the crime of..."

    "... you can't arrest me, I'm dead!"

    "Ok, then we'll bury you."

    "Nope, you can't do that either because a Doctor can't declare Life Extinct as there's no medical cause of death."

    "Err..."

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned"

      There's a good idea in there though.

      The administration cannot declare you alive again ? Fine, commit a small crime and find out just how fast they find a way to legally recognize your existence again.

      If that doesn't work, break in to the judges house. I'll bet that'll do the trick.

      Of course, then there will be the issue of a trial. With a pissed-off judge. Bet hey, you'll be legally alive again !

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned"

        "If that doesn't work, break in to the judges house. I'll bet that'll do the trick."

        It depends on the trick you had in mind. Back in the day a few of the older N Irish judges had had a military background including the formation of the SAS. One RUC man I spoke to had been given the job of guarding a judge who told him that his main job in case of an attack was simply to alert him (the judge). He asked why & the judge simply opened the door of the long case clock in the hall & showed him the rifle inside.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: "you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned"

        The administration cannot declare you alive again ? Fine, commit a small crime and find out just how fast they find a way to legally recognize your existence again.

        In Miller's case, the state of Ohio and the Federal government have demonstrated that they're perfectly happy to render legal judgements against him, regardless of his de jure fjord-pining. There's an extensive (and amusing, though probably not to him) discussion of the case in Kevin Underhill's excellent blog Under the Bar.

        The problem isn't that they don't "legally recognize" him; it's that they legally recognize him, all right, just with a certain amount of existential skew.

    2. herman Silver badge

      Re: "you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned"

      So I'll just shoot you, since you are dead already...

    3. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: "you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned"

      Dutch penal code article 69: The right to institute criminal proceedings expires by the death of the accused.

  8. John Tserkezis

    On the up side...

    ...it explains why everyone ignores me. I was dead all along and never realised it.

    Who did that by the way?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    had I not known

    that I was dead

    already

    I would have mourned

    my loss of life

    --Ota Dokan

  10. Rolf Howarth

    Interesting, but...

    An interesting article, but as the article itself points out, such behaviour is illegal.

    Lots of things are possible but illegal. If I can commit insurance fraud by falsely filling in a few paper forms and faking a signature and popping them in the post, or by falsing filling in an online form and using a fake email address and pressing the submit button, well, I don't really see there's a big difference.

    1. Any mouse Cow turd

      Re: Interesting, but...

      ...but if you are officially dead then they can't arrest you for anything, you are outside of the system.

    2. Meerkatjie

      Re: Interesting, but...

      I think it's more about how easy it is to do rather than it can be done. If the governments are going to entirely rely on online form filling and automated repercussions then they need to cater for rolling back when the systems make an error.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Interesting, but...

      Lots of things are possible but illegal

      Lots of things are possible but illegal, but done anyway. It's often useful to know about them.

      If I can commit insurance fraud by falsely filling in a few paper forms and faking a signature and popping them in the post, or by falsing filling in an online form and using a fake email address and pressing the submit button, well, I don't really see there's a big difference.

      Clearly you're not a security researcher. Those attacks have very different cost profiles (both risk and labor for the attacker), which is a big difference indeed. Security is always, always, always a matter of asymmetric cost to attacker and defender.

  11. Christoph Silver badge

    "In order to register someone as dead a form detailing the cause of mortality needs to be filled out by a doctor within 24 hours of that person's final breath."

    Err - so what happens if the deadline(!) gets missed? Do they become bureaucratically immortal?

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Crazy Operations Guy

    Back-date a birth certificate?

    I wonder if it'd be possible to back-date a birth certificate... Fake your own death and take the identity of someone that just happened to have also been born around the same time as you. Of course fooling biometrics would be a bit of an issue, but then you'd just create a new ID in another country that doesn't share data with the country you were born in. But then there is also the issue that you'd no longer have a degree, or a diploma for that matter; although there are plenty of schools that have shit for security...

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Back-date a birth certificate?

      Once upon a time, that was the way to create a new identity. You'd dig into some newspapers looking for an obit for a child that died shortly after birth. Take the name, the parents names, and few other tidbits and go to the local office for Vital Statistics (at least here in the States) and apply for a copy of the birth certificate. Once you had that, you were gold.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    20 years ago, I wrote a short story

    In which a man created a fictional wife, to take advantage of a tax break for married couples.

    The imaginary wife got picked up by official "systems" who started sending junk mail for credit cards etc. Poor sap who started it all carried on applying for credit cards, fleshing out the fiction.

    Was finally discovered when the police wanted to talk to her about an unpaid parking ticket (because it turned out someone *else* had the same idea, and was running this fake ID too).

    Could't get it published, as a "publicly accessible worldwide interconnected computer system" was a bit too far fetched, for story set in the year 2001.

    1. Jediben

      Re: 20 years ago, I wrote a short story

      Ok Jake, if you say so...

  15. lukewarmdog

    Not just illegal scams..

    There's a whole bunch of people in America who don't want to be found, don't care about lack of genuine passport details and don't need no credit cards to pick up extra guns for their government-hating compounds. If they were also dead, they'd be completely off the radar. That would be worrying, I'd imagine, for the people paid to keep an eye on them.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ID cards

    I have no information about the state of development of other countries related to their IDs with a chip (the UK aside, for what I've read here, it's a mess). But here where I live, we went ahead with it, and despite some concerns about the security of the chip itself, things worked pretty well. Now, you can buy a card reader, you have digital certificates assigned to you and issued passwords.

    The fraudulent actions described in the article, will not be possible here (among other things) because of our new ID cards. But the card readers can be a security problem if they come with spyware and keyloggers on board:)

  17. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    To be a funeral director...

    "in Colorado anyone can be a funeral director, in Nevada you need to pay $345 and take an exam, and in California you need an arts degree."

    I feel faintly insulted that my science degree in genetics doesn't allow me to dispose of bodies in California. Neither does my medical degree, though it does let me generate them.

  18. Simon B
    WTF?

    I can't have robbed the bank, i'm legally dead!

    "...but you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned." How much fin could you have!! i.e

    1. ROB A BANK!

    2. police catch you and you go to court.

    3. "Sorry your honor, this man is legally dead, he tried to undead himself and the state declaed him still dead. Therefore it is impossible for my client to have all the money he was accused of robbing a bank for, because, he is dead, and was found dead on 2 seperate ocassions. The dead can't rob banks."

    Where's the argument?

    As they insist he is still legally dead and therefore still legally non existant and can't get pasports/driving licences etc, then it stands to reason he can't legally go to prison, becasue he is dead and doesn't exist!, They can't gave it both ways!! pmsl.

    1. Queasy Rider

      Re: I can't have robbed the bank, i'm legally dead!

      But, but...

      ...if they already have you in custody, what's to stop the jailers from refusing to release you since you are already dead and therefore don't exist? Or they could just offer up your corpse.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no dignity in dying

    If power of attorney can be hacked by greedy relatives and a too-busy, bribed or blackmailed doctor (and I'm aware of controversy here), hacking consent for an assisted suicide enables them to get their hands on the money that much sooner, and it's not as if safeguards on the latter would be more stringent than those on the former. The claimed ethical case for this presumes such systems can't be hacked and judges and other officials are always honest.

  20. Tikimon Silver badge

    See Doc Daneeka in "Catch-22", published in 1961

    Humorously grim tale of a man declared dead by the Army, one of many extended black jokes in an excellent novel.

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